Illinois to lose one seat in Congress due to population shifts in 2020 Census

The U.S. Constitution requires an apportionment of representatives among the states every 10 years.

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This March 19, 2020, file photo, shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident.

This March 19, 2020, file photo, shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident.


WASHINGTON — Illinois will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Census Bureau said Monday in announcing the redistribution of the 435 congressional seats based on population shifts in the 2020 Census.

Over the past 50 years, Illinois, reflecting the results of each new census, has been allocated fewer and fewer members in Congress, as other states increased in population but Illinois either held steady or declined.

Illinois at present sends 18 members to Congress; under the new reapportionment, the delegation will drop to 17 members. Of Illinois’ current House members, 13 are Democrats and five are Republicans.

Seven states will lose a seat in the House of Representatives: Illinois, California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Six states will gain seats: Texas will be up by two, with one more going to Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.

There was a concern that Illinois would be down two seats. Census Bureau officials, asked about this during a press conference to announce the new seat distribution, said Illinois was “not close” to “losing another seat.”

Looking ahead, there will be an effort in 2022 elections to pit Illinois Republicans against each other in primaries to make up the one-seat loss. Democrats will want to draw districts with more Democrats in it for Reps. Lauren Underwood and Cheri Bustos.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the most prominent Illinois Republican, said if Democrats carve up his district, he may instead run for senator or governor in 2022. Whether GOP Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood make statewide bids also may depend on the remap.

Downstate freshman Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., is the Republican seen as most at risk in a remap.

Reapportionment is the step that takes place before a remap — that is, drawing new congressional district lines based on the latest census data. Each state gets at least one seat; after that, the remaining 385 seats are distributed according to population, with the aim to have about the same number of people in each district.

No matter the number of seats in the House, this system for distributing them has been in place since the first census in 1790.

U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Illinois will have one less member in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sun-Times file

The Illinois General Assembly draws the new congressional district maps, as well as those for the Illinois General Assembly. Both the state House and state Senate chambers are dominated by Democrats, who also were in control when the districts were last redrawn in 2010.

Drawing new district lines is a highly political process. A party or incumbent can get a running start in the next election if boundaries are drawn to pack in voters of a given party.

It’s not just that Illinois’ population is down; other states are gaining more. In 2020, the Census Bureau said the population in Illinois used for apportionment purposes was 12,812,508, as of April 1, 2020, a small drop from 12,830,632 in 2010.

Reapportioning also impacts each state’s Electoral College clout. A state gets one electoral vote for each member of the House of Representatives, as well as for each of its two senators.

Illinois’ seats in Congress have been declining for decades. Fifty years ago, Illinois sent 24 members to the House of Representatives. The high count was 27 seats.

Here’s the breakdown, according to the office of the House historian:

• 27 seats after the 1930 Census

• 26 seats after the 1940 Census

• 25 seats after the 1950 Census

• 24 seats after the 1960 Census

• 24 seats after the 1970 Census

• 22 seats after the 1980 Census

• 20 seats after the 1990 Census

• 19 seats after the 2000 Census

• 18 seats after the 2010 Census

• 17 seats after the 2020 Census

The current Illinois congressional map includes three Black majority districts and one Hispanic majority district, with lines drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

There is a tremendous amount of gerrymandering in the Illinois congressional maps; that is, districts spread out in meandering fashion, mainly to give a party or an incumbent a political edge. 

There has been a “fair map” movement in Illinois to reduce gerrymandering, though a 2016 drive to change the system failed.

It’s hard to see how or why Illinois Democrats give up their advantage in drawing congressional districts, especially since the Democrats are hanging on to control of the House by only a few seats. 

Davis said in a statement Gov. J.B. Pritzker “pledged to veto any partisan-drawn map. The politicians in charge should not be using the census to pick their own voters and protect their own power.”

Nationally, former President Barack Obama is a leader in a movement to reduce political mapmaking, with Democrats deeply involved because so many of states are dominated by Republicans.

Obama, in his 2016 State of Union address said, “If we want a better politics . . . We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.”

Still, as a practical matter, Obama, who is part of the “All on the Line” Democratic dominated remap group, is focusing on the GOP states of Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia.

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